It was the final motivation for Eddrick to leave Athart though. He'd been indoctrinated from birth into the propaganda of Athartian culture; that of accepting slavery as a necessary institution. He'd been raised to view it as nothing worse than a tool of fate to deliver hard times upon those that somehow had come to deserve it. There were those that said certain curses of the Immortals brought inevitable slavery upon their victims, and so they were doing nothing worse than the will of these deities.
But Eddrick's eyes had been slowly opening to the horror of what he'd been doing for several arcs now, and to suddenly find himself betrayed by the very culture for which he'd tried to make excuses for so long now was the last straw. He'd "hit the jungles running" as they said in Athart about escaped slaves. But his knowledge of slavers' tactics gave him the edge he needed to make it all the way to the desert.
There, he'd traded the stigma of being a slaver for that of being a bandit. But he was not dissatisfied with the seemingly negligible difference in the level of morality involved. These were all hard men, trained to the harshness of desert life. But they were not brutes, and very few were truly even of a criminal nature. Like Eddrick himself, most had simply had no chance to elude fate plopping them among such peers.
But Eddrick did not resent fate's intervention on his path. He felt as accepted among these ruffians as he'd ever felt among the Athartians. And there were no political agendas here conducive to the betrayals that had run him out of Athart. It was true that virtually everyone he'd encountered while on raids with his new comrades spat words of contempt at him, based upon the easily-recognizable Athartian slaver armor he wore, with its signature red leather look. But the Rahkrii Raiders were different. And those same people had come to know he had now rejected Athart.
Yes, they robbed, yes, they ambushed, yes, they even killed. But the latter was done only as an extreme object lesson, just to show that they were not afraid to resort to such severe measures, when tested by the uncooperative. Many times they took only a portion of what the might, or on some occasions, actually GAVE to some downtrodden group, or at the least, escorted them to a more hospitable location.
They did not rape. Any found guilty of such was dragged to the center-most furnace of the Hotlands and left there to perish slowly and horribly, unless fate intervened. In such cases, they did not pursue a second punishment. They did not need to show themselves as fearsome brigands from whom one was lucky to escape with their life. They had a stronghold the envy of many a small army, and women of sufficient number and attitude. Food was usually one of the prime targets of their wheeling and dealing with caravans and travelers. And water was a feature of the cave system of which their stronghold was comprised.
All in all, they were a free band of outlaws, that rarely committed anything so heinous as to bring the wrath of any locals down upon them, governmental or nomadic. And they were strong in number and loyalty. Eddrick rightfully credited the undisputed leader, Talon, for this accomplishment. The man brooked no nonsense, nor suffered no disrespect, but he also was ready with compassion for the suffering of the less fortunate. He simply viewed it as necessary that he maintain this strength so that he could dispense his code when felt it was warranted.
More than once, some Nashaki caravan owner had pleaded hardship and escaped a full measure of tribute. But Talon sent agents in to follow up on the owner and test the merit of his claim. When he was found to have lied, the next time through The Corridor, Talon stole every last thing from him, including the clothes off his back as punishment. But even then, Talon kept only what he would have kept as usual tribute, and gave out the rest to the needy at the Nashaki market.
It would perhaps be overstating things to say that Eddrick loved Talon. But it would not be overstating anything to say that he was best leader Eddrick had ever known, and that he considered it a privilege to be in Talon's ranks. For his own part, Talon recognized Eddrick's contributions as well, and had lately begun to consult him on the side for an estimate of some strategy's viability. He did this privately so the current Warchief would not become uneasy about his standing.
As Eddrick was helping with the oiling of some metal fittings, he saw one of Talon's messengers approaching, and wondered if this was going to be requested again. But instead the youngster, one of the Rahkrii women's children, informed him that someone had come to see him. Someone no one present knew. If Jeth, the newly acquired medic, had seen the visitor, he might have filled in the gap in information. But for now, Eddrick shrugged and rose to go and see. He did not rush, but wasted no time. He knew if this was an uninvited guest, there would probably be some restraints in effect, and he would want to relieve the fellow of such an indignity.